This week’s episode is titled for the Ipatiev House — the place where the Romanovs were slaughtered after the socialist revolution in Russia. The Romanovs lived there for 78 days before their executions, much like Emmit Stussy (Ewen McGregor, his brother Ray, Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Instead), and only showrunner Noah Hawley knows who else, will linger on for more episodes this season before their seemingly inevitable end. At least, that’s what the title foreshadows. Maybe they all survive, besting their foe V.M. Varga (David Thewlis). But right now it’s not looking highly likely.
If you’ve never considered the ways the Northern Glaciated Plains of Minnesota resemble Siberia, this is the episode that takes you there. But first, we open on Emmit who is listening to the classical style country song (released in 1980) “Hard to Be Humble” by Mac Davis. He’s riding high on the idea of wealth that Varga sold him in the last episode, while his wife gets a special delivery for him at home that makes the song swing from surface commentary to ironic and damming. Unbeknownst to Emmit, Ray and Nikki made a sex tape to blackmail him with, in which Ray is pretending to be Emmit and having sex with Nikki. The feud isn’t over because Nikki cannot stop fanning the flames in a seemingly never-ending quest for money. They drop the tape off at his front door, where Emmit’s wife Stella (Linda Dash) finds it and inevitably plays it. She takes her mother and moves out. She tells the kids. She burns it all down. This act, on Ray and Nikki’s behalf, sets of a series of chain reactions that ends poorly for everyone in the Fargo season 3 universe. Buckle up.
While they’re setting up the blackmails scheme, Ray proposes to Nikki. (“No, for Pete's sake I’m wearing a hooker wig. Just hold on!” is her initial, hilarious response.) She seems truly enamored, even if she doesn’t respond in kind to him telling her he’s in love — but she does call him sweet, which is true enough. When Emmit watches the tape, he immediately knows who it is and fumes.
Things are going equally poorly in the world of Sy Feltz (Michael Stuhlbarg). He comes into the office to find Varga in his office and walks in to find him insulting his wife by way of announcing that Emmit signed partnership papers and he’s taking Sy’s place in the company. The man pisses in his “World’s Best Dad” coffee cup, then Yuki Gurka (Goran Bogdan) and Meemo (Andy Yu) make him drink it (the urine dripping off his mustache in slo-mo is a hard to watch touch). So that’s the level of brutishness with which he’s dealing. It’s just a taste of what is to come. As Varga predicts, Sy can’t stop himself from acting to stop all of this. His first stop is the Bear’s Den (and it is spectacular) to have a dinner with Mrs. Goldfarb (Mary McDonnell), who you might remember her name from the first episode this season, the “storage queen.” She’s aggressively interested in buying the Stussy parking empire, to the point of offering to let them keep the name in tact with one hand and then making veiled threats about how you don’t want a Goldfarb for an enemy with the other. Sy clearly sees it as a way out of their Varga/mafia problem. Dinner is interrupted by Emmit’s text to Sy when he finally emerges from losing his shit about the sex tape. What Sy doesn’t seem to notice, and what should be ominous for the viewer, is that Yuri and Meemo are following him.
Ray and Emmit have a confrontation over the phone (interesting choice) that shows both of them have quite the temper — possibly only one that they can bring out of each other. It will be interesting to see if they end up on the same side at the end of this.
Sy convinces Emmit to let him “take the gloves off” when it comes to Ray, taking advantage of Emmit’s distraught state. That’s the second terrible decision in the episode. Emmit is putting a lot of shit on Sy for his bad decisions, which is clearly only going to lead him further down the path of depending on/aligning with Varga. Sy arranges a meeting with Nikki, who he knows is the ringleader of this circus, at one of the more remote Stussy lots. Yuri and Meemo follow him there, where Yuri nearly beats the life out of Nikki. Their brutality is expected, but Sy’s role in it is truly the downfall of a human. He doesn’t attempt to step in. He doesn’t even check to see if Nikki is alive after Yuri and Meemo leave the scene. He flees, off to save his hide. I guess that’s his true character: a scared, selfish little man.
Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon) and Officer Winnie Lopez (Olivia Sandoval) bring Ray in for questioning and uncover even more ties between him, Maurice LaFay (Scoot McNairy), and the death of Ennis Stussy (Scott Hylands). But they have to deal with the mansplaining bullshit of Sheriff Moe Dammik (Shea Whigham), who I hope has a delicious scene where he eats his shoe coming soon.
The episode closes on Ray finding a nearly dead, seriously wounded Nikki in their bathtub at home. Or, in the style of a Shakespearean drama that just yells “a plague on all your houses.”